Dashcam footage released for the first time this week shows the moment an out-of-control Tesla on autopilot slammed into a parked police car, causing the police cruiser to then fly off the road and strike a sheriff’s deputy standing nearby in 2020.
According to Newsweek, details of the Aug. 26, 2020 accident were only made public this week by North Carolina State Highway Patrol, who released the video. It took place on the side of U.S. Highway 64 in Nash County.
The footage is from the dashcam of a separate nearby parked police car sideswiped in the incident. It shows one deputy from the Nash County Sheriff’s Office and one officer from the North Carolina State Highway Patrol standing on the side of the highway when the Tesla slams into one of the patrol cars, which then flies off the road and hits the sheriff’s deputy.
Law enforcement officials later said the deputy narrowly avoided more significant injury.
“Luckily, the state trooper pushed our deputy out of the way when he heard the tires squeal, and in an instant, we could have lost a life or several lives,” Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone said following the accident. “It could have been very horrific.”
The Nash County Sheriff’s Office shared news of the dashcam video’s released on Facebook, calling it “another reminder to be aware of what’s going on around you when you’re driving and to not get distracted from the road.”
The Tesla’s driver, a doctor named Devainder Goli from Raleigh, North Carolina, was allegedly watching a movie on his phone at the time of the crash, relying entirely on his car’s autopilot capabilities.
Goli was arrested and charged with “viewing a television device while driving,” as well as a move-over violation.
At least 12 major car crashes have been linked to Tesla’s autopilot feature, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. The administration opened a federal investigation into Tesla as a result, and ordered the electric car manufacturer to turn over its autopilot data.
“NHTSA reminds the public that no commercially available motor vehicles today are capable of driving themselves,” said the agency in a statement, as reported by CNN.
“Every available vehicle requires a human driver to be in control at all times, and all state laws hold human drivers responsible for operation of their vehicles. Certain advanced driving assistance features can promote safety by helping drivers avoid crashes and mitigate the severity of crashes that occur, but as with all technologies and equipment on motor vehicles, drivers must use them correctly and responsibly.”
Tesla leaders, including the company’s CEO, billionaire Elon Musk, have rejected claims that the autopilot feature is unsafe.
The company said “many factors can impact the performance of Autopilot components, causing them to be unable to function as intended,” including “poor visibility,” “bright light,” and “narrow or winding roads,” as well as several other variables.
“Current Autopilot features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous,” Tesla said, adding that “it is the driver’s responsibility to stay alert, drive safely, and be in control of the vehicle at all times.”